Senate Bill 76 was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee on 9/16/14. The bill now proceeds to the Senate floor for a vote. Titled the Property Tax Independence Act, the bill is intended to provide property tax relief. The bill proposes to replace school property taxes with an increase in the sales and use tax, an increase in the state personal income tax, and imposition of taxes on certain previously exempt goods and services.
The over two dozen newly taxable goods would include food, non-prescription drugs, personal hygiene products, coin operated food and beverage vending machines, newspapers and magazines and textbooks. Newly taxable services would include: recreation services, such as spectator sports admissions, amusement industries, museums, zoos and parks; personal services, such as dry cleaning, personal care services, funeral parlor services; transportation services, such as transit, ground and air transportation; and miscellaneous other services, like basic TV, veterinary fees, parking lots and garages and recreational parks and campgrounds.
The bill also would impose tax on certain professional services, such as most legal services. The tax on legal fees would include contingency fees. Our law firm joins the Pennsylvania Bar Association in opposing the tax on legal services, for many reasons. For one, a sales tax is largely a “consumption tax,” one that is imposed on persons who choose to make certain purchases.
People who suffer work injuries or injuries as a result of an accident hardly can be said to fit into that category. Such a tax, therefore, taxes certain people at times of hardship and misfortune. Although most would agree that property tax reform is needed in Pennsylvania, a tax on legal services should not be part of the solution.